Jon Heyman reported yesterday that the Pirates were among the teams that have shown interest in free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera. Heyman also notes that the Orioles, Marlins, Royals, and “other teams” have shown interest.

Typically, a rumor about a team showing interest in a player is about the smallest news story you can get. Every team pretty much shows some kind of interest in every player, just doing due diligence. The interesting thing here is that this rumor comes after the Pirates have traded two of their best players, and after they’ve said they are still looking to contend in 2018.

Heyman also repeats that the Pirates like Brandon Nimmo from the Mets, but that it’s hard to see the Mets parting with him for Josh Harrison. The common theme with those two rumors is that the Pirates appear to be looking for an outfielder.

If the Pirates are serious about trying to contend in 2018, then they will need an outfielder. Their current starting lineup would probably include Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, and either Jordan Luplow or Adam Frazier. I expect Marte to bounce back from his down year last year, and we may have already seen him bounce back in September. Polanco is a question mark with his injury problems, although I don’t think they’ll be as extreme as last year.

For the final spot, I think they should go with Luplow and see if he can be a starter. At this point, he probably has the same or more upside than a guy like Cabrera, although that’s not a guarantee. My feeling that they should go with Luplow is paired with the feeling that they aren’t contenders, and should focus on the younger players in 2018.

Adding a guy like Cabrera wouldn’t be a bad deal as a part-time player and a backup plan in case Luplow doesn’t work out. But it would be difficult to see him taking a deal to be a backup with so many teams interested. He was replacement level last year, and has been replacement level almost every other year in recent years. He was about a 2 WAR player in the years in between, so there still could be some upside to get an outfielder that is around average.

I don’t think Cabrera’s upside is worth making him the starter and sitting Luplow. But then again, we don’t know what kind of interest the Pirates have shown. That interest could very well be that they want him to split time with Luplow, or that they want him as a backup.

The takeaway with the Cabrera and Nimmo rumors is that the Pirates appear to be looking at outfielders.

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